With the Corps of Engineers conducting maintenance on hydropower units at Bull Shoals Dam, flows have been a bit erratic this week so far, from minimum flow to 17,000cfs and a lot of in-between. On top of that we’ve had a couple hard rains and the resulting runoff to deal with. It can happen any time of year – tiny tributaries wash silt and debris into the river, temporarily limiting visibility and covering your flies and line with bits of moss and leaves and grass. Inadvertently, these heavy rain events also wash a great deal of trout food into the river, from minnows and crayfish to worms and grubs to insects aquatic and terrestrial. Often there can be dependable fishing as the river starts to clear after such an event, and although the up and down flows keep you ducking and circling, there have been some windows of opportunity early this week where quality browns were willing to bite.
San Juan worms, DW Dynamite Worms, and Mega worms are all time tested flies for wet weather and runoff situations. For added effectiveness add a dropper like Dally’s Tailwater Jig, or DW’s Super Midge, but there can also be something to gain by allowing the subtlety of movement that results from the worm fly untethered to any other flies, just alone and vulnerable at the end of the leader, curling and undulating some distance behind a split shot for weight. Just a simple strand of colored chenille, lashed to a hook and sunk with a lead weight, nothing fancy or complicated, strictly getting down to business.
Baitfish patterns are also favorites after hard rains. Wether drifted or stripped, or some combination of mending and stripping, 2-3″ minnow patterns like Sparkle Minnow, Kreelex Minnow, Clouser Minnow are proven fish catchers.
In low, clear flow the best tactic has usually been drifting a Dally’s Tailwater Jig, DW Super Midge, or something suggestive of a caddis like a Mercer’s Jiggy Caddis Pupae or a Riffle Nymph. In minimum flow, it’s sometimes necessary to drift something even smaller and more subtle, like a Ruby midge, Root Beer midge, Redneck midge, or DW’s Sowbug #16-18.
Norfork is up and down as well, but fishing well with Blobs, Mega Worms, and Sunday Specials on high water, Hunchback Scuds, Hare’s Ear nymphs, and Root Beer midges on low water.